Hasidism: Writings on Devotion, Community and Life in the Modern World

Cover of HasidismAriel Evan Mayse and Sam Berrin Shonkoff, editors

Hasidism has attracted, repelled and bewildered philosophers, historians and theologians since its inception in the 18th century. In “Hasidism: Writings on Devotion, Community, and Life in the Modern World,” Ariel Evan Mayse and Sam Berrin Shonkoff present students and scholars with a vibrant and polyphonic set of Hasidic confrontations with the modern world. In this collection, they show that the modern Hasid marks not only another example of a Jewish pietist, but someone who is committed to an ethos of seeking wisdom, joy and intimacy with the divine.

While this volume focuses on Hasidism, it wrestles with a core set of questions that permeate modern Jewish thought and religious thought more generally: What is the relationship between God and the world? What is the relationship between God and the human being? But Hasidic thought is cast with mystical, psychological and even magical accents, and offers radically different answers to core issues of modern concern. The editors draw selections from an array of genres, including women’s supplications; sermons and homilies; personal diaries and memoirs; correspondence; stories; polemics; legal codes; and rabbinic responsa. These selections consciously move between everyday lived experience and the most ineffable mystical secrets, reflecting the multidimensional nature of this unusual religious and social movement. The editors include canonical texts from the first generation of Hasidic leaders up through present-day ultra-orthodox, as well as neo-Hasidic voices and, in so doing, demonstrate the unfolding of a rich and complex phenomenon that continues to evolve today.